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Horse Problem - Cinchy Horse - Horse is chronically cinchy









QUESTION: Hi. I have a 10-year-old mare. I bought her when she was just coming 4. She is VERY cinchy. I have had this problem all along. I even had an incident out on a trail ride tacking up. When I reached for the cinch, she started fidgeting and when the cinch touched her, she sucked up her belly, started bucking, and threw my saddle through the air. Now she was worse than ever! So I sent her to a trainer to correct the problem (a resistance free training trainer). I went and watched what this trainer did and it worked. For a while. Then winter came and there was a lot of snow and ice and we were unable to ride. Back to square one. So I went through the whole process again, using what I had learned from the trainer. And again it worked. Now, I live in the south and rode all winter. She was away for a week because I sent her to be bred. She comes back and she is horrible again with this problem. At first I know it was a fear issue. Now it seems to be more of an "I hate being saddled" thing. Now, once I have it on her and she calms down, she is fine. I can mount and ride her. She is a barrel horse and does well there. It is just this saddling thing we can't seem to get past. I'm frustrated because I love her and I am patient. But this is getting ridiculous. HELP! Thanks.

REPLY: Unfortunately, once a cinchy horse is created (via people cinching up in one fell swoop painfully, not in stages), they become fearful of that feeling again, which is about pain/discomfort/claustrophobia even. So, it's a "sensory memory" that needs to be undone now with many, many repetitions of cinching the right way, the respectful way. Just be patient there and cinch in tiny stages, walking her a few steps between stages every time. Maybe devote one or two days' lessons on many repetitions of just this one issue, no riding. Do NOT tie her when saddling/cinching as that can add to the claustrophobic fear there. Untie her, hold the lead in your hand so you can direct her feet there if needed, stand in an open area, go slowly, only cinch one inch, step her forward a couple of steps. Repeat. But I would add here, since she's so fearful about this issue, do some bonding/relaxing techniques before the saddle goes on, after the saddle goes on, and throughout the incremental cinching process after the walking-a-couple-of-steps, and for these bonding/relaxing techniques, let me direct you to a page on my web site that goes over some of them: Horse Whispering "Tricks of the Trade" - To relax horse, build trust & bond them to us

In particular I want you to focus in on 1) the finger-in-the-mouth/feathering the tongue technique (which instantly gets the horse working the mouth/licking/chewing/relaxing, and 2) teaching the horse to drop the head (which instantly relaxes them), that I show in that link there. The rest there aren't really important for your purposes here. Practice both of those relaxing techniques with her without the saddle around first until you get the hang of it (and see the power of them), then use those "tools" from now on, to teach her to relax for the cinching process. Keep empathy because it's a much bigger issue to her than it ever could be for you. She's afraid. Or...more accurately maybe, she's afraid she's going to feel afraid. It's a cycle. Walking her feet after each incremental cinching stage will help reprogram her (take 10 or more stages if you have to, don't be in a hurry, to rebuild a new sensory memory that is more pleasant, feels safer to her, and stops the fear cycle) and using the relaxing techniques should help her to stop fearing being cinched, but will have her feeling emotionally supported in this fear. If you can really follow what I'm showing you here, and implement it from now on, you should be able to get past this.

All of the above (and much, much more) is taught in my Whispering Way 12-Step Total Training System DVD set. Usually it helps to see this natural horsemanship art taught visually, to really understand how it is all done. You can get that DVD set here: CLICK HERE

And Whispering Way Complete Training Package contains all my videos and training tools that you need to train or retrain your horse yourself the natural horsemanship Whispering Way. You can check out/order the Whispering Way Complete Training Package on my web site here: CLICK HERE

Also, away from the saddle, you can do some more girth-tightening desensitizing using a natural horsemanship halter with 12' lead rope (I have them here if you need one: CLICK HERE). Here's how you do it: Stand on the left side of the horse. Take the lead rope, from your side, and run it over the back and behind the withers. Reach underneath the horse and draw the rope under the belly into the girth area. Keep control of the lead toward the head with your hand closest to the head, so you have control of the head and can pull the head toward you if needed (which sends the hind quarters away from you) if it ever fell apart there. Take the rope that now encircles the girth area and pull it up slowly tightening it just a tiny bit. But release when the horse stands still, so start small there, in baby steps. All horses learn from the release of pressure that they did the right thing, not the pressure itself, so release often for incremental "right answers." The right answer there: stand quietly and accept the girth rope squeezing. Begin in baby steps, only a tiny squeeze, hold it one second, then release (slack in the rope), stroke the horse, "good girl!" Build up to tighter squeezes, but give lots of releases/strokes for reward when the horse tolerates each stage so the horse can digest incrementally the successes. Stop and bond, drop head, finger in mouth to feather the tongue as often as you need to, to keep the horse relaxed there. Also, gently "saw" the rope there now and then, to get the horse accustomed to that, and more desensitized in general in the girth area. Use "feel" to read the horse. Release before the horse moves or reacts and you'll get there faster. Long way is the short way here, as we say in natural horsemanship!

I fix this type of cinchy problem all the time (more common a problem than you might think out there!) and that's indeed the route I've found that works best. Back up and do the girth desensitizing with the 12' lead rope, end that lesson on a positive. Come back the next day, repeat. Until the horse can handle that well, I'm not going to work with the saddle/real cinch just yet. Take the time to break this down into smaller baby steps like that, respectfully, while also proactively teaching the horse to relax via the relaxing techniques and you should make positive progress there. Be patient. I know that's hard to hear, but she needs patience around her as she relearns. Don't be goal focused for a while as it regards the saddle/cinch. Be retreat focused. Put the saddle on, remove, walk away (retreat). Pause. Let her think about it. Approach, put saddle on, remove, retreat. Until she relaxes. Goal-focused is what gets people in trouble there. Don't hesitate to release the girth, remove the saddle, just to show her she's not trapped there, whenever needed. Many times even! It's during the RETREAT that horses gain new confidence.

And make sure no one ever (EVER!) cinches her again in one swift gut-wrenching movement or you WILL be back to base one again. Try the above and let me know how it goes.

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